Small Business Marketing on a Tight Budget in 2020: the Ultimate Guide

Have you been googling small business marketing and now your head is spinning trying to figure out which ones you really need?

What am I gonna do if I waste all my money and time on the wrong marketing strategy?

I mean, they're all important, aren't they? 

But especially this year of all years, 2020 is not the year to waste time or money.

What small business marketing strategies really work?

And what else do I need to know to make them work for me and my small business? 

If you look (and I'm sure you already have), you'll find an abundance of ideas and opinions on how to do small business marketing.

I'm not here to give you more ideas.

I'm here to introduce you to the best teachers for your new small business.

But first, let's unpack small business marketing. What are all its different parts and what do they do.


The Real Secret to Small Business Marketing Success is Right in Front of You


The people who want to buy your products hold most of the answers to your small business marketing success.

People told me this over and over and…

For years, I ignored them. I wasted so much time. Don’t waste your time like me.

Answer these 4 questions and…

Avoid big future time-wasting problems later.


happy crowd of customers


1. Who Are These Mystery People?


The "perfect business" starts with a group of people that you know exceptionally well. And then you create products and services that help them do what they want.

If you already have a product or service, ask yourself who are the people buying it?

Describe one of them in as much detail as you can.

If you have a product or service that no one is buying, that is also valuable information.

It could mean:

  • Your product doesn't appeal to anyone.
  • You don't know who wants your product yet (but they exist).
  • You're not telling them what they want to know about your product.

More than likely, it's #2 or #3, by the way. 


2. What Are You Really Selling?


The more you know about these (hopefully not too) mysterious people, the better.

Useful questions to ask yourself: 

  • What do these people want?
  • How does my product or service help to fulfill their dreams and desires?
  • When do they feel the greatest desire for your product?

Develop a healthy obsession with these people and what your business can do for them.

What emotions or feelings are they really buying from you?


3. What Is Their Problem?


As obsessed as you are becoming with your buyers’ and potential buyers’ dreams and desires, let’s add fear to the equation!

They have fears and these fears motivate them too.

What might happen if they don’t buy your product?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are they worried about?
  • What worry can your product or service remove from their existence?
  • When do they worry the most about this problem you can solve?

We are often more motivated by our fears than our desires. I don't recommend using scare tactics on anyone. 

Remember, we are here to help people and make money.


which direction should I go with my small business


4. Where Do I Go Now?


Do you know where your buyers hang out on the internet or in real life?

Google search and Facebook are two very big internet hangouts. But there are others and it depends on who your people are.

Also, consider what ways of communicating do you enjoy most.

If you’re going to spend time communicating with your (hopefully) future clients, why not use the form you do well and love doing.


Create a Simple Small Business Marketing Plan that Makes You Money


Knowing which business strategies are right for you hinges on these questions.

This isn’t a big random list of “small business marketing tips for you to try.”

Go through these simple questions to clarify which business strategies you need to succeed.

And by the way, the answers to these questions will help you make adjustments as you track your numbers over time.


Where Do I Start?


Look at your current situation. 

Write down the answers to these questions:

  • How many people know about your business?
  • How many web visitors do you have every month? 
  • How many people see your Facebook page posts, your Pinterest pins, your YouTube videos, and every other marketing activity your business does? 

Next step, let’s find out how many people are interacting with your business.

  • How many people are liking, commenting and sharing your web pages, videos, and social media posts? 
  • How many people are signing up for your email list?
  • How many people are contacting you with questions or comments?
  • And finally how many people are buying your products and services? 

These are the most important numbers you need to create a small business plan that fixes your problems and gives you your next steps.


Your small business marketing data


What Do You Have?


Your small business marketing budget isn’t just about money. 

Time is a pretty valuable and limited resource in your life too!

So, the big question is: Do you have more time or more money to spend on marketing?

All marketing strategies either cost you money or require more time to get the result you want.

Look at your schedule and your bank accounts carefully before choosing any marketing strategies.


What’s the Problem?


Fortunately, there are only three real problems you can have in your business.

  • not enough eyeballs
  • not enough engagement ( sign ups, comments, likes, shares, etc)
  • not enough sales


Need More Eyeballs on Your Business?


Got crickets on your website? 

Or a dead Facebook page? No views on your YouTube channel? 

If no one is seeing or hearing about your business, you have a traffic problem! And this is good news, because “not enough eyeballs” is the easiest problem to fix.


Want More People Engaging and Interacting with Your Business?


Got plenty of eyeballs on your website and social media accounts, but not much interaction?

You have a people problem! You probably don’t know them well enough yet.

Who are your buyers? What does your product really give them? 

People don’t react to you until you speak their language. If you don’t understand your people and talk about what's important to them, they won’t respond to you.

Get to know your people!


online buyer pressing add to cart button


Need More People Buying from You?


Lots of website visitors and tons of interaction with your business, but not many sales?

You might have a desire problem!

Your social media posts, videos, and web pages are engaging and people are interacting with you. This is great!

But either your product or service is not quite what this crowd wants or…

They don’t understand what they will get from your product or service.

Time to get clear on what they really, truly want from your product or service and make sure you show them those results!


What Is the Easiest and Quickest Fix You Can Make Right Now?


This entire article is all about fixing these 3 marketing problems!

Now that you know where you’re stuck, keep reading to find the right solution for your schedule, personality, and small business marketing budget.


The Two Biggest Small Business Marketing Strategies to Get More Eyeballs on Your Business


Getting more eyeballs is step number one in your small business marketing plan.

You need people to see your webpages, social medai posts and especially your email optin forms and landing pages (for free gifts and paid products).

Without more eyeballs, you don't know if these elements of your sales process are doing their job.


#1 Organic Marketing or Inbound Marketing


Organic marketing is anytime you don’t pay Google, Facebook or another site to show ads.

Articles and web pages that Google ranks highly in its search results that visitors click on and read. Facebook posts that your followers see, like, comment on and share.

Organic marketing costs you no money (unless you hire someone to do it).

But it does require more thought and time.

Organic marketing can take more time to build up the volume of visitors, engagement, and sales, but once it does, it can require very little time.

And cost almost nothing to maintain.


business owner making a decision


#2 Paid Marketing or Outbound Marketing


Paid marketing is advertising. You pay Google, Facebook or Twitter, for example, to show an ad on their platform.

You see if your ad campaign works within a few hours, days or weeks (depending on the platform).

But as soon as you stop paying, the results stop too (with a few exceptions).

It’s great for testing your sales pages, ideas, or as your primary traffic source (if your profit margins allow for it).


Organic Small Business Marketing Strategies That Work (and Are Not a Waste of Your Time)


You can learn to do these business marketing strategies yourself or you can pay a professional to do them for you.

They require time to learn and perform well, but they produce amazing results over time.


Content Marketing


You use this form of marketing every day, every time you use google search.

Helpful information on the internet that hopefully appears on the first page of google search results (because you probably aren’t going to click through to page 5 of google search).

75,000 people search for something on Google every second! (99firms)

They are using it to find information and products right now.

Content marketing brings eyeballs to your site and you can connect with them through content marketing if you use it right.


Organic Social Media


Unless you are able to resist, you probably participate in this marketing strategy every day (maybe even a few times every day)!

Each social media platform requires different strategies.

You can use each one to introduce people to you, your business and your products. And most platforms are great for learning about your people as well as connecting and interacting with them.

Finding your people, clarifying your message and building relationships on any network takes time, but you can do it all for free.

Your buyers are on social media and they spend a good bit of time there!


social media marketing for small business


SEO


SEO is search engine optimization. 

Basically making sure that Google sees and likes your web pages and shows them on page one of the search results for your keyword.

Moving up just one spot on the Google search rankings can get 30% more clicks to your site. (99firms)

Learning about this subject takes time, but its rewards keep coming year after year if you do a good job.


Paid Marketing Strategy for Small Business: How to Use It without Losing Your Shirt


Sometimes (especially when your business, website or social media account is new), you need to pay to get those eyeballs.

It's a great way to test your free gift (or freebie) that you give away in exchange for their email address.

Do people like it?

Are they clicking and then signing up? Or not?

You can also test a new landing page for a paid product (although their email address is way more valuable in my opinion).

Testing with ads can give you some very valuable information.


google ads for small business marketing


Google Ads 


If you are impatiently waiting for your web pages to rank organically on Google, you can pay for ads on Google’s search engine results.

You are competing against other businesses that are also willing to pay to be on page 1 of the search results.

If competition is heavy on your preferred keyword, your ad may be expensive.

And Google expects your ad to perform well or it will show someone else’s ads before yours (because it’s a pay per click or PPC system).

Ubersuggest is a good (and free) place to check the competition on different keywords for organic or paid search ads.

Keywords Everywhere is a very inexpensive tool for keyword research too.

Google ads require a certain amount of research before you jump into it. 

You'll want to know how many people are searching for a specific keyword (a group of words typed into a search engine like Google).

You'll probably also want to know how much people are paying for that keyword (on Google ads).

One great place to start to learn more about Google ads is from Perry Marshall and his 5th edition of the Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords.



Social Media Ads 


Your people are on social media. 

Look at these statistics for 2020:

Facebook                  2.45 billion users
Instagram                  1 billion users
Linkedin                     660+ million users
Pinterest                    330+ million users
Twitter                        330+ million users

Each platform attracts different age, education, and income groups, but Facebook attracts the largest and most diverse audience.

If you know which groups are perfect for your products and services, you’ll have an easier time choosing the right social media network for your business.

Check them all out below and see which one looks like a good fit for your small business marketing plan.


Social Media Marketing for Small Business: What You Absolutely Need to Know to Use Them Wisely


Which social media platform is the right one for you?

It could depend on who buys (or might want to buy) your products. Or your personality. 

Or what you're really good at (writing, graphic design, videos, etc).

facebook social media platform

Facebook 

69% of US adults use Facebook (Pew)
83% of US adults earning $75K+ use Facebook (Pew)

Whether you choose to go for organic Facebook traffic or pay for ads, over two-thirds of US adults are on this platform. 

Facebook is where we go for entertainment and connection with others, but the challenge is getting people to stop scrolling through their Facebook feed and look at your content.

And then enticing them enough to like, comment and share it!

The master of scroll stopping engagement on Facebook is Rachel Miller.

She has a ton of free help in her free Facebook group. You can check out some of her super valuable tutorials here.

If you’re looking for advice on Facebook ads, Rachel can guide you on how to use organic strategies to boost your Facebook ad strategies.

And if you prefer the no-nonsense wisdom of a successful Facebook ads specialist, you can’t do better than Claire Pelletreau.


Twitter social media platform


Twitter


44% of US adults 18-24 use Twitter (Pew).
31% of US adults earning $75K+ use Twitter (Pew)

Twitter is a slightly younger, more educated and politically left-leaning crowd.

This platform has some unique and interesting advantages. All tweets are searchable on Google for example. 

And Twitter users love clicking links.

One of the best and most comprehensive books on how to use Twitter for fun or for business is Mark Schaefer’s The Tao of Twitter

If you are wondering if Twitter is the platform for your business needs, Mark’s book goes into every useful corner of Twitter, both organic and paid methods.


Pinterest social media platform


Pinterest


71% of Pinterest users are women (Statista).
39% of US adults earning $75K+ use Pinterest (Pew)

Pinterest is a visual search engine with mostly women searching for products, services, and information to help them buy things.

If you have a business that would interest women or is very visual, Pinterest may be the platform for you.

Kate Ahl runs Simple Pin Pinterest Strategies Group on Facebook and the Simple Pin podcast. Check out her podcast to get the details on how Pinterest works, see if it’s for you and find out where to start.

The queen of Pinterest advertising is Monica Froese. 

Her free mini-course on Pinterest advertising is clear, well thought out and worth checking out if you think Pinterest has your audience.


instagram social media platform

Instagram 


75% of US adults 18-24 use Instagram (Pew)
42% of US adults on Instagram earn $75K+ (Pew)

Want to show off what you can do? 

Share your special skills with the world and its niche communities on Instagram.

If the idea of opening up a little window into your business world through video, text, and images sounds like fun, check out this platform.

Links are not allowed so it’s all about connecting with people individually and inspiring them to get in touch with you.

This is not the platform for website traffic.

It’s all about direct messaging, liking and commenting on the Gram.

Warren Carlyle knows Instagram.

He's built an enormous community himself (a 200k+ member Octopus fan club!) and he loves teaching organic Instagram strategy.

Check out his free Instagram strategy group here.

To learn more about Instagram ads, Claire Pelletreau is an excellent, no-BS Facebook and Instagram ads strategist who can teach you how to do it yourself. 


Linkedin social media platform

Linkedin


45% of Linkedin users are in senior management (Linkedin)
91% of executives rate Linkedin as their first choice for professionally relevant content (Linkedin)

If you sell to other businesses, especially not-so-exciting products or services and go to trade shows to market your business, Linkedin may be the most effective social media network for you.

Let’s face it, project management isn’t going to cut it on Instagram or Pinterest.

But 80% of social media leads for B2B come from Linkedin.

The Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Linkedin is loaded with the most valuable (and essential) information you need to get started with this platform.


The Must-Have Tools of Online Marketing for Small Business


These tools can help with attracting eyeballs...

But what these tools do best is build relationships (as in get to know your future customers).

And email can be your secret weapon to more sales if you use it right.


Your Website or Blog


Nowadays, a business without a website is out of the question. It would be like shooting your foot right before you start a marathon. 

But do you need a blog?

Find the answers to all of your questions about starting a blog. Plus, lots of great advice on the important details of setting up a website.

WordPress is the most common platform for building a website. You only pay for website hosting and your domain registration.

It requires a little training and you’ll find all the WordPress tutorials you can handle online.

Personally, I use Thrive Themes Architect for my WordPress sites. It’s pretty user-friendly.


 And Thrive Themes offers some other great business tools for a reasonable price (like quiz builders. optin forms, and more).


If you're on a particularly tight budget, Elementor is a user friendly web page builder with a free and a paid version (for WordPress sites).


Email


Of all the small business tools online, your email service provider can deliver the most value to you for the least amount of money (after your website). 

Your website and social media can attract people to your business, but where do you make the most sales? 

Ask anyone in business for very long and they will swear by their email list.

And the best news is email services can be very affordable (until your list gets enormous)! From $0 to $30 a month for most services (for lists of less than 1000).

Two free email service providers are Mailerlite and Mailchimp.

If you have room in your budget, Convertkit is great and easy to use for the technophobes. ActiveCampaign is great (and a little cheaper) with more tagging, automation, and other very useful extras.

And if you're wondering "What am I going to email people about?"
I highly recommend Kate Doster's extremely affordable Email Marketing Fairy.

Her Inbox Besties podcast is also an excellent place to learn about selling through email for free.


email marketing for small business


Google Analytics


Google Analytics won’t solve your marketing problems, but it will tell you where the problems are...for free!

It will also tell you:

  • how many people come to your site
  • how much time they spend on your site (on average)
  • how they find you (facebook, google, etc)
  • what device they used (computer, tablet or mobile phone)
  • where they are (country) 
  • and a lot more

Find out if your marketing efforts are working. 

Here’s where you can find out how to connect it to your website and use it to gain extraordinary value.


Local Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business


So, what if your people are only in certain towns?

You’re not driving all over the country to fix people’s roofs, deliver pizzas or do IT consulting ( well, probably not)!

Many small businesses are for locals only. Can the internet really help them much? Is it really worth the trouble?


Make Sure Locals See Your Small Business


46% of Google searches are local. (99firms)

Make sure anyone searching for what you do in your local area finds you with a Google My Business listing.

You can encourage them to message you, call you or email you. Get reviews, show your reviews, and basically give your future fans the confidence to try you out.

Check out these step by step instructions on setting it up right.


yelp deals for local small businesses marketing

How to Attract New Local Clients Quickly


Reviews are so important for small businesses, especially local businesses.

One way to get lots of reviews and customers is with Yelp Deals.

Offer a small and helpful service at a discount that usually leads to more work to get more customers. Yelp will promote your deal, your business, and encourage reviews for you.

You can even limit the number of deals sold if you have a really small business.

Speed up your introduction to local customers, get some ongoing customer business and those precious reviews on Yelp.


Offline and Online Marketing Event Ideas for Small Business


Teach People Something


You can teach people something related to your business any way you want nowadays. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

And they all can work great for your business.

You can do it for your own group of potential customers or be generous and give helpful advice to someone else’s group.

  • Local  in person classes or presentations
  • Private invitation only zoom classes
  • Youtube how-to videos
  • Go live in a complementary business person's Facebook group 
  • Go live in your own Facebook group or on your FB business page
  • Demonstrations on Instagram’s IGTV
  • Traditional webinars


small business owner teaching


Support a Meaningful Event in Your Local Area


Just because it's 2020 doesn't mean local events can't happen.

Local events will probably become even more important now (because there will not be so many of them) and we have all learned about virtual events this year, haven't we?

What local event attracts the perfect customer for you?

How can you get involved? Volunteer or be a sponsor for a local event that is important to you and your future customers.

Who knows. You may end up on the local news program!


Old School Business Practices that Still Work for Local Small Business Marketing


Are Business Cards Necessary?


Make your business cards as quirky or as serious as you and your business are. Having a card that looks different can help and they are so inexpensive now.

Some businesses need them and others not so much.

Which kind of business are you?


Are You Shy?


If not (and you have a subject that makes people curious), can you put together an interesting and entertaining presentation on it?

If you think your area of expertise is not so exciting, is it something people want to know about? 

Are they worried about something related to it?

Give it some serious thought. It could be a very cheap way to get clients.

And now that we are all familiar with online events (even if you're a little shy), you can speak to groups virtually.


small business owner teaching a workshop


Make a Few Friends


Who else works with the same customers you do?

You’re not competitors and you may have related businesses. It would just make sense if this guy recommended you and vice versa.

Find some other business owners like this and get to know them.

In fact, just get to know some other business owners, and see how you can help them make more money.

You’ll be surprised how good this will be for you.


Ask Your Customers


It’s the most uncomfortable question and…

It will make your life so much easier once you get used to it.

Ask your customers “who do you know” that needs a (what you do)?

If they can’t think of someone, no big deal. But if they can, you just saved yourself some time looking for new business.

Just do it.

Your life will get so much easier when you do.

ask your clients for referrals


Small Business Marketing Automation: Do You Need It?


You’ll see a lot of fancy technology and complicated ideas as you work your way through all the small business marketing ideas out there.

Remember what your business needs right now and ask yourself:

  • Can I get what my business needs without this right now?

Small business marketing automation involves mostly done-for-you platforms to make your business easier to manage.

But they are not cheap.

Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Hubspot, and so many more.

If you have the budget for them, they will make life easier. When you are just starting out, it might not be the right time.

And the learning curve for some of these systems can be very steep.

You might even need help to understand how to use them properly at first.

Your very small business might not even need the gigantic list of features that these platforms offer right now.


Small Business Marketing Services: When Do You Need Expert Help?


At some point in your business, you will want some expert help.

Not necessarily when you are just getting started. These are some of the experts that you may need in the future.


Virtual Assistants


Wait a minute!  Virtual assistants are experts?

Well, it depends...

Some VAs are highly experienced business professionals who specialize in specific social media platforms or certain businesses (like finance bloggers, marketing consultants, freelancers or real estate agents, for example).

Some VAs are customer service experts.

And some have an uncanny ability to know what you need before you ask (once they get to know you a little).

Sure, there are plenty of VAs that have none of these amazing qualities. 

It makes those of us with these amazing qualities (and the right mindsets too) even more valuable.


virtual assistant business owner working


Content Marketing Writers


Writing sounds easy. Everybody can do that, right?

When you’re competing with 1000s of other businesses for page one of Google, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Do you really want web pages that people click away from almost immediately?

Using words to draw people in and entertain them while giving them what they are looking for isn’t easy.

If this isn’t one of your talents, you might want to find a skilled writer as your business grows.


Video Production and Editing Services


Eye-catching videos that create interest in your business and your products.

Finding a great idea, shooting it and putting it all together are not easy jobs that you can do in a few minutes.

Until you master the apps and software.

Some people love doing this and some people hire others to do it for them.


video editor for small business marketing services


SEO Specialist


An SEO’s job is to find what Google doesn’t like about your website.

Learning how to please artificial intelligence requires attention to detail and a love for spreadsheets.

Choosing the right topics and keywords to write about on your site, finding ways to get other websites to link to your site and other detail-oriented fun.

If tables of data don’t excite you, consider finding someone else to do it for you.


Copywriters


A good copywriter can take your email list, inquiries or sales to new heights if you’re talking to the right people about the right products or services.

Otherwise, you are going to spend too much money for no results.

So get in your buyers’ heads and learn everything about them before you talk to these experts.

Test out your product ideas yourself first.


Social Media or Google Ad Specialists


Your people are searching for certain keywords or hanging out in certain categories on social media.

Social media specialists must figure out where they are and say the right things to get them to click over to you.

You can learn this but it takes time. 

If you love testing tiny changes in your ad campaigns and tracking it over time, you might secretly be a future ads specialist.

And if not, let someone who geeks out on this do it for you.


Facebook ads for social media small business marketing strategy


Small Business Marketing Consultants


When you have a small business, you probably don’t have time to do everything a marketing department would do.

You probably don’t have a marketing department either.

A small business marketing consultant can help you create a plan.

They can also execute that plan for you.

This is as expensive as it sounds and this step is not for new businesses on a tight budget. But it’s perfect once you have some success and want to grow.


Frequently Asked Questions


Here are a few of the most common questions you might have about your new business and a small business marketing plan on a budget.



How Can I Market My Small Business for Free?


If you’re really cash strapped and need to market your business with no money, you have 2 online options.

You do need a website to make the most of these strategies.

If you don’t have a website, WordPress is free. But you’ll need to pay for hosting (which can be a few dollars a month or more). This article goes over many of the details on websites and blogging.

You can write articles on your website for free to attract traffic.

Get a free email service provider and start building your list of potential clients.

Another strategy is social media. 

All social media platforms are free to use and you can begin building your fan club organically.

You can get some free advice from Rachel Miller in her Facebook group: Grow Your Audience

For free Pinterest advice, check out Kate Ahl's Simple Pin Pinterest Strategy group on Facebook.

Both of these strategies work very well but take time and practice to learn.

For email marketing, I highly recommend listening to Kate Doster's Inbox Besties podcast. 

She makes email marketing easier to learn and fun.


Small business owner with no money


What Is the Best Marketing Strategy for a Small Business?


The best marketing strategy for your small business depends on your personality, your budget, and your schedule.

For example, maybe you’re not comfortable in front of a camera, so Youtube and public speaking might not be right for you.

Is your business very visual?

Pinterest, Instagram, and most social media could be great for your business.

Do you have no time and some money?

Ads may be a better choice for you or hiring experts like content marketers or an SEO specialist.

If your budget is really tight, you might have to spend some time becoming an expert in one strategy in this article.

These strategies can take some time to learn, so consider focusing on only one of them at a time.


How Do You Market a Small Local Business?


Nearly all the small business marketing strategies in this article work for local businesses.

A few of them are perfect for small local businesses, like Google My Business and Yelp Deals.

Developing relationships with other complementary small businesses, asking for referrals and offering entertaining and educational events are also great for local businesses.

The sky really is the limit for most small local businesses.


small business owner marketing success


The Future of Your Small Business


It’s time to stop thinking about your small business marketing strategy...

And start doing it.

The biggest secret to small business success is consistent action.

Pick a strategy that works for you (and your bank account) and go for it.

Wondering if you picked the right one and if it really will work and worrying and hesitating and overthinking it are all bad marketing strategies.

You'll learn more by making mistakes than doing nothing.

Start learning from any of the amazing experts in this article (just not all of them at the same time, please)!

You'll learn by doing...and getting it right...and sometimes getting it wrong.

One thing is for sure.

Nothing will happen if you don't act.

Let’s do it now!


About the Author

Suzanne Berthuy
Content Manager      

 

There's nothing I love more than getting my hands on a client's message and helping her get it in front of more of the right people.
Some people think content is just social media copy. But that is only one part of it. Images, graphics, videos, articles, and email are a part of her content too.
Her message in her voice. Her brand. To her audience.

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